Tag Archives: kassam

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Danny Cipriani edges out Gavin Henson in relegation battle

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Cipriani comes edges out Henson in relegation battle

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

17:57 GMT, 17 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:06 GMT, 18 February 2013

Gavin versus Danny proved to be an evenly-fought sideshow at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday in a raw relegation battle.

Sale edged the tussle thanks to tries either side of half-time which helped them to only their fourth Premiership win of the season.

If their careers had gone to plan Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani would have been preparing for Six Nations games rather than being rival club fly halves as they attempt to rebuild careers.

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow relegation strugglers

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow strugglers

Both enjoyed impressive games. Henson
took the London Welsh sponsor’s man-of-the-match award, but it was
Cipriani’s Sale who emerged victorious in a fraught, penalty–strewn
game.

‘Relief, that’s the best word,’ said
Steve Diamond, Sale’s director of rugby. ‘But we are still bottom and
have Harlequins and Leicester to come in the next two weeks so we are
not out of the mire.’

Yet Sale are daring to hope at the
bottom of the 12-team competition. This was a second successive win,
following a similar triumph over Exeter, and four points here put them a
point behind 11th-placed London Irish and three off Welsh.

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

And there is
no doubting that in Cipriani they have an attacking No 10 who could yet
lead them to safety.

He helped make a crucial try for
scrum-half Will Cliff just before half-time, producing the acceleration
and distribution, alongside wing Charlie Amesbury, which gained him
England recognition.

He also kicked 13 points before being
replaced by Nick Macleod who is considered to be more dependable and a
better defender for such tense finales.

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Henson, playing his first full game in
three months due to injury, also produced play that brought back
memories of his best days for Wales. He landed one long-distance penalty
attempt and set up wing Phil Mackenzie for his team’s only try in the
48th minute.

It was a beautifully-timed pass by
Henson whose conversion put Welsh 22-20 ahead. He then banged over a
second penalty to increase the lead to 25-20 only for Cipriani to reply
in the 60th minute.

It was Cipriani’s last contribution,
Macleod kicking the penalty nine minutes from time which put his team a
decisive 26-25 ahead.

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Welsh’s head coach Lyn Jones said: ‘We
just did not take our chances when we had them.’ After Cipriani put
Sale ahead in the ninth minute, Welsh fed off Sale’s poor discipline
for Alex Davies to kick three penalty goals followed by Henson’s
long-distance toe-bunger.

But it was a series of rash Welsh errors which allowed Sale back.

Cipriani kicked another penalty and then escaped down the right, with Amesbury, to make Cliff’s try

Sale continued on the attack after the
break and Dan Braid, an impressive arrival from New Zealand, scampered
in for the second try.

Welsh regained the lead when Henson made Mackenzie’s try but Sale held their nerve.

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

Eden Hazard ball boy kick charge shows the FA as hypocrites – Martin Samuel

A booking for one but a charge for the other. — so less than a year ago — Oxford United played at home to Swindon Town in League Two. This is the biggest match of Oxford’s season, for those not up on lower-league rivalries or the geography of middle England. The A420 derby might not enjoy the same prestige as its equivalents in Manchester or Liverpool, but if you have a season ticket at the Kassam Stadium, it’s the big one. There was a crowd of almost 12,000 and tempers ran high.

Oxford had James Constable sent off early, but were leading through goals by Asa Hall and Oli Johnson, when Matt Ritchie, a right winger voted League Two Player of the Year last season, became involved with a slow-moving ball boy, identified as Aidan Hawtin, 16 at the time, and on Oxford’s books as a youth player.

A report from Mark Edwards, sports editor of the Oxford Mail, and published on March 5, explains what happened next: ‘Acting as a ball boy in front of the Oxford Mail stand, Hawtin was grabbed and kicked by Matt Ritchie after the Swindon man felt Hawtin was taking too long to return the ball to goalkeeper Ryan Clarke. “He tried to grab the ball off me and kicked me as well,” Hawtin said. The Oxford Mail stand gave him a huge ovation for his efforts, which saw Ritchie booked for his antics. The Swindon man did apologise to Hawtin at the final whistle, however.’ Sound familiar

Long spell on the sidelines The FA's independent regulatory commission could increase Hazard's three-match ban

Long spell on the sidelines The FA's independent regulatory commission could extend Hazard's ban

A Facebook group catchily named ‘Matt Ritchie is a disgrace’ claimed that Hawtin was ‘grabbed round the throat and pushed’ and there was talk of a complaint to the police. Believing that the punishment should be greater, Myles Francis, an angry Oxford fan, wrote to the FA asking what action would be taken against Ritchie.

Knowing what we know of the FA’s take on Hazard, Ritchie’s yellow card would also have been deemed insufficient, one imagines. The FA made a direct link in their statement between Hazard’s actions and the offence of violent conduct and, coincidentally, that was among the points raised by Francis in his letter.

He wrote: ‘I would be interested to know for what offence Ritchie was cautioned by Mr Salisbury. To my mind, the altercation with the ball boy was a clear case of violent conduct. Violent conduct is defined in Law 12 as “using excessive force or brutality against a team-mate, spectator, match official or any other person”. Law 12 goes on to say that a player guilty of an offence of violent conduct must be sent off [my emphasis].’

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And this was the FA response. ‘Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. The FA have investigated and liaised with Oxford United on this matter. The player was cautioned by the referee for the incident and has subsequently apologised to the satisfaction of the ball boy and Oxford United.’ So much for the hard line.

Faced with near identical transgressions — in both cases the referee saw the incident and administered the punishment he believed fit, in both cases the player apologised and in both there is evidence to suggest that the ball boy was carrying out his duty to the benefit of the home team only — the FA behaved in contradictory ways.

They are now rigorously pursuing Hazard, having completely ignored Ritchie. The letter announcing that no further action would be taken against the Swindon player came from Gary Stonehouse, who is a member of the FA communications team. He signed off on behalf of customer relations.

‘Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you: he really is an idiot,’ President Firefly tells Freedonia’s Cabinet.

But this is not true in Stonehouse’s case. Stonehouse is not to blame for the inconsistency. He is a lowly employee who would no doubt have taken guidance from his superiors over Ritchie. The communications department do not get to make judgment calls on serious disciplinary matters.

Stonehouse would have asked a suitable senior, or the correct department, and would then have mouthed that response. He could not have imagined, either, that within a calendar year those superiors would hang him out to dry by adopting an entirely contradictory stance — just because Hazard’s transgression attracted headlines and Ritchie’s went unnoticed beyond that day’s crowd of 11,825.

Not exactly a kickabout in the park though, was it Not exactly a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.

Anyway, considering some of the punishments meted out to amateur footballers playing in front of the proverbial two men and a dog, it would be highly disingenuous of the FA to claim that a kick is less of a kick if only 11,000 people see it. Such a stance would be indefensibly hypocritical. Stonehouse’s reply was also the standard FA fudge, hiding behind the dubious excuse that because the referee saw the incident and ruled on it, no further action would be appropriate.

Funny how that does not apply in Hazard’s case.

When Roy Keane almost snapped Alf Inge Haaland in two during the Manchester derby, a foul that still looms large in the memory such was its studied viciousness, there could be no additional action against the Manchester United player because referee David Elleray brandished a red card. In Hazard’s case, this no longer applies. More confusion, more inconsistency, more regulation on the hoof.

No extended ban: Roy Keane was sent off for this appalling tackle on Alf Inge Haaland

No extended ban: Roy Keane was sent off for this appalling tackle on Alf Inge Haaland

It wasn’t so long ago that the FA self-servingly appealed a lengthy UEFA ban for violent conduct because it would free up Wayne Rooney to play in the European Championship finals. Now they want to come over all masterful, the guardians of morality. They should pick a face, and wear it.

Chelsea are aware of the Ritchie precedent and may use it in defence of Hazard. At the very least, they believe its existence is an embarrassment and a point of weakness for the FA. Yet has that bothered them in the past

This is an organisation who speak proudly, some might say shamelessly, of their high conviction rate in disciplinary matters, having devised a system in which the prosecution appoints the independent judges and is therefore responsible for covering their time and expenses. Such a system creates an obvious conflict of interest.

On disciplinary matters, the FA act like the Mounties, always getting their man. But that is not so hard when the same body get to play judge and jury, and write the rulebook.

Their problem is that we now live in an age where even the smallest details exist in the public domain and a two-minute internet search can throw up records, precedents and case histories that were once filed and helpfully forgotten. You have got to be good to preside over sport these days because an Oxford fan with time on his hands and a computer can post damning correspondence on a forum that is picked up and circulated like wildfire.

At which point, a body as morally flexible as the FA are likely to be asked how their populist posturing over Hazard can be justified when less than a year ago, an identical incident was deemed worthy of no more than a yellow card, an apology and a handshake.

President Firefly would certainly know how to administer justice in these circumstances. ‘I got a good mind to join a club — and beat you over the head with it.’

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Veron proves Fergie is not always right

Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, regards some of those criticising his goalkeeper David de Gea as idiots. He is entitled to his opinion. It is not as if anyone is going to score many points disputing the merit of professional footballers with the greatest manager in the world.

One cannot help but recall, though, that the last time he used this phrase was over criticism of Juan Sebastian Veron’s performances for United. Remind us what happened there again

Expensive mistake: Juan Sebastian Veron cost Manchester United 28m - he was sold to Chelsea for 15m

Expensive mistake: Juan Sebastian Veron cost Manchester United 28m – he was sold to Chelsea for 15m

And while we’re at it…

It was a wonderful weekend in the FA Cup. Luton Town’s victory is among the greatest upsets of the modern era, while the results for Oldham Athletic, Milton Keynes Dons, Leeds United and Brentford were stunning achievements. Arsenal also defeated Brighton and Hove Albion in a five-goal thriller.

Yet live on ITV on Saturday, Stoke City played Manchester City and Fulham travelled to Manchester United. The richer teams won. Ho, and indeed, hum.

No imagination, some people, when it comes to Cup football. If City had drawn United then, yes, show a glorified Premier League game. But these were not even particularly good replica league fixtures. They would not have been the marquee match on any casual Saturday.

When United went a goal up after three minutes through Ryan Giggs, their tie with Fulham was dead and Stoke’s defeat was eminently forgettable. Some think the Cup has lost its magic, yet the earliest stages of the competition rarely fail to delight. It is football’s television masters that have grown stale.

The magic of the Cup: Luton's stunning victory at Carrow Road was one of the great giant-killings

The magic of the Cup: Luton's stunning victory at Carrow Road was one of the great giant-killings

Dual role: Sky pundit and England coach Gary Neville

Dual role: Sky pundit and England coach Gary Neville

Crunch time to come for Neville

Few pundits have a higher approval rating than Gary Neville. Fans who thought they would hate him on Sky love him instead for his honest, straight-shooting appraisals. Falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson over David de Gea will only enhance his reputation. Richard Keys could not have picked a worse week to suggest Neville was being operated, remotely, from inside Old Trafford.

Keys did make one valid point, though. Crunch time for Neville, Sky and the Football Association is yet to come. Last weekend, Neville stated quite explicitly that Tottenham Hotspur player Clint Dempsey should have gone down under pressure from a Patrice Evra challenge in the penalty area, rather than staying on his feet. As Roy Hodgson’s England regime remains inexplicably on honeymoon, the comment was ignored.

There will come a time, however, when results are not good and some are looking to make mischief for Hodgson. At which point ENGLAND COACH TELLS PLAYERS TO CHEAT would be quite a lively story. Under pressure.

That is when Neville’s hope of riding both horses to the finish line will be tested, not before.

London Welsh 15 London Irish 9: Gordon Ross seals points for Welsh as red card mars dire game

London Welsh 15 London Irish 9: Ross seals points for Welsh as red card mars dire game

PUBLISHED:

17:59 GMT, 1 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

17:59 GMT, 1 December 2012

London Welsh claimed victory over basement rivals London Irish at the Kassam Stadium.

However the game was ruined as a contest by the early dismissal of number eight Chris Hala'ufia which resulted in the visitors having to play 70 minutes with 14 men.

The match was a dreadful spectacle with neither side having any attacking invention to break down the opposition's defence and it was left to Gordon Ross to secure victory for his side with five penalty goals.

No way through: London Irish's Sailosi Taicakibau is tackled

No way through: London Irish's Sailosi Taicakibau is tackled

London Welsh took a fifth minute lead when Ross kicked his first penalty after Irish were penalised for dragging down a lineout drive.

Almost immediately, Welsh suffered a big blow when influential centre Hudson Tonga'uiha left the field with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.

Irish had their first opportunity for points but Ian Humphreys was narrowly short with his 45-metre penalty attempt.

On the march: London Welsh's Tyson Keates drives forward

On the march: London Welsh's Tyson Keates drives forward

The visitors then suffered a huge set back when Hala'ufia was sent off for a dangerous tip tackle on Welsh replacement Seb Jewell.

The referee JP Doyle sought the advice of his touch judge before issuing a red card.

Hala'ufia expressed his regret by immediately walking over to the uninjured Jewell to shake his hand but the damage was already done.

Flying high: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills rises to take the ball

Flying high: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills rises to take the ball

The resulting penalty was kicked by Ross.

With 15 minutes gone, Irish were again penalised to enable Ross to kick his third penalty to give his side a handy 9-0 advantage.

Tom Homer put Irish on the scoreboard with a penalty before the visitors were given further hope when Humphreys kicked another.

When Matt Garvey carelessly lost possession, Irish again offended for Ross to be on target.

With two minutes of the half remaining, Homer had the opportunity to reduce the arrears but his kick from just inside his own half sailed narrowly wide to leave Welsh deservedly ahead 12-6 at the interval.

Irish introduced Halani Aulika at prop for the second half and were unlucky not to get the first points of the half when Humphrey's penalty rebounded back off a post.

The visitors' woes continued when flanker Garvey was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate offside before Humphreys again missed with another penalty attempt.

Playing against 13 men, Welsh blew their best chance.

Tom Arscott neatly chipped through for Nick Scott to run on to. The wing was first to the ball and booted it over the try line but somehow Tyson Keates failed to secure the easy touchdown.

Full stretch: Matt Garvey of London Irish bursts through

Full stretch: Matt Garvey of London Irish bursts through

Garvey returned with no damage to the score line but once again Irish offended at the line out to allow a kick from Ross to scrape over via the crossbar.

Homer missed with a long range penalty but fifteen minutes from time succeeded with another as the spirited Irish raised their game.

When Sonny Parker was yellow carded for a deliberate offside with 10 minutes to go, Irish scented an unlikely win but Welsh hung on.

London Welsh 15 Exeter 42: Nic Sestaret and Jack Nowell blow away hosts

London Welsh 15 Exeter 42: Late try blitz from Sestaret and Nowell blows away hosts

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UPDATED:

18:59 GMT, 11 November 2012

A completely-changed Exeter gained a measure of revenge for their Aviva Premiership defeat at the Kassam Stadium earlier this season with an emphatic victory over London Welsh in the LV= Cup.

The Warriors scored four of their six tries in the final quarter, with Nic Sestaret and Jack Nowell both going over twice, to blow away their hosts who had led 9-8 at half-time.

Will Carrick-Smith and Mark Foster touched down for Exeter before their late blitz, with Henry Slade adding 12 points from the boot.

Airborne: Myles Dorrian dives over to score a try for Exeter against London Welsh

Airborne: Myles Dorrian dives over to score a try for Exeter against London Welsh

The Exiles, who retained 10 players from the team that met bath last time out, relied on Gordon Ross to kick over all of their points.

The hosts had no answer to the young Chiefs who were a revelation, showing huge enterprise, and had they showed a little more composure in the first half then Welsh would have suffered an even greater defeat.

Exeter did not include any of their players who started last week's Premiership game against Worcester and they initially found themselves in an arm wrestle.

Helpless: Gordon Ross of London Welsh reflects on another defeat for the Premiership strugglers

Helpless: Gordon Ross of London Welsh reflects on another defeat for the Premiership strugglers

London Welsh took the lead after six minutes when Ross kicked a 20-metre penalty but Slade soon responded with an even simpler one for the visitors.

The first quarter was evenly contested but Exeter came closest to scoring.

One of their forward drives actually crossed the line but their effort was ruled out by the TMO and then following penetrative runs from Joel Conlon and Myles Dorrian, Junior Poluleuligaga was pushed into touch a metre short by some desperate home defence.

No way past: Joel Conlon (centre) is tackled by Nick Runciman of London Welsh as he attempts to break through

No way past: Joel Conlon (centre) is tackled by Nick Runciman of London Welsh as he attempts to break through

Against the run of play, Welsh regained the lead when Exeter infringed at a scrum 25 metres out and Ross made no mistake with his kick to give his side a 6-3 lead after 25 minutes.

Three minutes later, the more enterprising Chiefs deservedly scored the first try. Slade's miscued kick went straight to his wing Foster who ran strongly down the left flank deep into the Welsh 22. Exeter recycled the ball and Poluleuligaga's pass sent Carrick-Smith over for the try which Slade was unable to convert.

Welsh relied on their forward drives and the tactical kicking of Ross to have the better of the latter period of the first half and they were rewarded when just before the break, Ross kicked his third penalty to give them a 9-8 interval lead.

Rough and tumble: Lee Beach of London Welsh is tackled by Jack Nowell of Exeter

Rough and tumble: Lee Beach of London Welsh is tackled by Jack Nowell of Exeter

Early in the second half, Slade put the Chiefs back in front with a 45-metre penalty before they scored an excellent second try.

Chris Budgen got them moving forward with a 10-metre drive; the backs were then given their opportunity for Sam Hill to produce an exquisite dummy to send Foster in for an easy try which Slade converted.

Ross kicked two penalties in quick succession but Welsh still trailed 15-18 going into the final quarter.

Exeter then put their foot on the accelerator.

Try time: Miles Dorrian of Exeter celebrates with his team-mates after scoring at the Kassam Stadium

Try time: Miles Dorrian of Exeter celebrates with his team-mates after scoring at the Kassam Stadium

Their burst began with a skilfully created try scored by Nowell, who outflanked the cover defence.

With 12 minutes to go Sestaret went over from close range before the French wing, put away by the lively Poluleuligaga, raced in for his second.

Two minutes from time, Nowell collected his second and Exeter's sixth, which was converted by Slade, as the Welsh were ultimately routed.

Amlin round-up: London Welsh given European baptism of fire as Stade Francais put on a show

Amlin round-up: Welsh given European baptism of fire as Stade put on a show

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UPDATED:

19:57 GMT, 13 October 2012

London Welsh were heavily beaten after facing a tough baptism of fire in Europe against established French outfit Stade Francais, who claimed a comfortable 68-19 nine-try win at the Kassam Stadium.

Outside half Gavin Henson scored the first points for the Exiles at this level, but Lyn Jones' men trailed 35-16 at half-time.

Stade Francais hooker Remi Bonfils and
centre Waisea Vuidarvuwalu both crossed twice to secure the bonus point
before Hugo Bonneval touched down for a fifth first-half try.

In the points: Gavin Henson in action for London Welsh

In the points: Gavin Henson in action for London Welsh

Daniel George scored Welsh's first try, but Felipe Contepomi added the gloss on an excellent individual display with a 75th-minute score in a 25-point haul as Stade started their Pool Five campaign in style.

Welsh face an uphill battle in this pool after Grenoble hammered Italians I Cavalieri Prato 59-3 on Friday night.

Thrashing: Waisea Nayacalevu scores a try for Stade Francais

Thrashing: Waisea Nayacalevu scores a try for Stade Francais

Bath claimed their first away win in
Europe in almost two years with a convincing Amlin Challenge Cup 40-17
bonus-point success over Bucharest Wolves.

Sam Vesty scored 20 points as the Aviva Premiership outfit strolled to a five-try victory at Arcul de Triumf.

The 2008 winners had not won on the
continent in European competition for five matches since their triumph
against Aironi in the Heineken Cup.

Lock Will Spencer and hooker Ross
Batty scored first-half tries before Vesty, Ollie Devoto and Kane
Palma-Newport all crossed to seal maximum points for Gary Gold's troops.

Bucharest scored twice themselves
through Florin Surugiu and Christian Munteanu, but Bath have applied
pressure on their group rivals Calvisano and Agen, who face each other
in the late kick-off on Saturday.

Worcester Warriors taught Gernika a severe lesson with a thumping 85-5 success in Pool Two.

This was the Spanish champions' European debut, but it turned into a nightmare as the Warriors crossed 13 times.

Gernika wing Toto Mazzochi scored on the hour mark, but the joy was short-lived as Richard Hill's side ran riot in this one-way contest.

Replacement Max Stelling grabbed a six-minute hat-trick late on, wing Andy Short and scrum-half Paul Hodgson scored try doubles while number 10 Joe Carlisle bagged 25 points with a try and 10 conversions.

Yet the challenge in weeks ahead will be tougher for Worcester, who take on Perpignan next weekend.

The French giants thrashed Rovigo in a 10 try 79-12 romp at the Stadio Mario Battaglini this afternoon.

Gavin Henson"s final chance to rescue rugby career comes in Saracens clash

Salvage mission: Henson's final chance to rescue rugby career comes in Saracens clash

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UPDATED:

21:15 GMT, 5 October 2012

Gavin Henson's 'last chance' as a professional rugby player will begin in earnest in Oxford on Sunday, when he is pitched straight in at the deep end as London Welsh's playmaker against Saracens.

A week earlier than expected, the 30-year-old, double Grand Slam-winning Wales centre will don the Exiles No 10 shirt and make his first appearance for the club in the Aviva Premiership, having recovered from a fractured cheekbone.

That injury, sustained in a pre-season game against the Scarlets, delayed what is – by his own admission – a final opportunity to salvage his career, which once promised so much.

Kick-start: Gavin Henson will don the No 10 jersey for London Welsh against Saracens

Kick-start: Gavin Henson will don the No 10 jersey for London Welsh against Saracens

When Henson lines up for the league's newcomers against the 2011 champions at the Kassam Stadium, he faces so much more than resolute opponents armed with a formidably stifling defence.

The game represents another moment of truth for him, against a club he played for in an abortive return from his prolonged sabbatical.

Since he wore the Saracens colours, he has tried and failed to resurrect his fortunes at Toulon in France, then back home in Wales, with Cardiff Blues.

On each occasion, fitness issues, fluctuating form and alcohol-related dramas have derailed his ambitions.

But he was presented with a shot at salvation by Lyn Jones – the man who oversaw his rise to prominence at the Ospreys and is now in charge of London Welsh's crusade to stay in the Premiership.

Having chosen to bring Henson straight into the Exiles XV in place of Gordon Ross, Jones said on Friday: 'I'm very happy for him and very comfortable in starting him in this game.

'Gavin really wanted to be involved and we decided that the sort of player he is, it is probably best if we get him into the game straightaway.'

Now that his high-profile summer signing is available again, Jones is confident he can deliver the goods for Welsh, adding: 'We've all witnessed Gavin's potential.

Early doors: Henson returns from injury a week ahead of schedule

Early doors: Henson returns from injury a week ahead of schedule

'I would like to think that by November, he can be operating to the best of his ability. There's a long way to go, but we will give him as much chance to perform as possible. He will make mistakes, but among the mistakes there will be good bits, too.

'Gavin has been training really well and we've been giving him more responsibility within the squad, which he has enjoyed.'

In a club statement, Henson said: 'I am looking forward to making my first start for London Welsh in the Aviva Premiership. The boys have done really well in the first five games and I can't wait to start playing my part.'

Prior to the start of the season, Henson conceded that the Richmond-based Exiles had re-opened a door that he feared had been closed, leading to fears that his career was over.

Last chance saloon: Henson believed Cardiff Blues would be his last club

Last chance saloon: Henson believed Cardiff Blues would be his last club

'I am very lucky to have a chance here,' he said. 'This is my last chance. I thought Cardiff would be my last club, and it was going to be, but I couldn't end my career like that.

'This move has kept me in the game. I was more or less finished rugby-wise. I thought that was it but I felt I had unfinished business.'

Leinster confirmed that their Kiwi coach, Joe Schmidt, signed a one-year contract extension, which will keep him in Dublin until the end of next season.

Retaining the services of the 46-year-old, who has presided over back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs, is a major coup for the Irish province.

AVIVA PREMIERSHIP WEEKEND GUIDE

Exeter v Harlequins (Saturday: Sandy Park 3pm):
Exeter shake-up sees debut for ex-Wallaby lock Dean Mumm.

Flanker Ben White, hooker Simon Alcott and fly-half Gareth Steenson also play. Quins name Danny Care and Joe Marler on bench. PREDICTION: Away win.

Gloucester v Bath (Saturday: Kingsholm 2.15pm, LIVE on ESPN):
England No 8 Ben Morgan returns for Gloucester, who have All Blacks arrival Jimmy Cowan on the bench.

Bath move Stephen Donald to fly-half after Olly Barkley's departure to Racing Metro.
PREDICTION: Home win.

London Irish v Northampton (Saturday: Madejski Stadium 3pm): Struggling Irish have lost captain Declan Danaher, who has a jaw injury.

Marcel Garvey moves to back row. Northampton captain Dylan Hartley also misses out due to a facial injury.
PREDICTION: Away win.

London Wasps v Worcester (Sunday: Adams Park 3pm):
Wasps look to ex-Wales fly-half Stephen Jones to lead a back line featuring wing Tom Varndell and fit-again Hugo Southwell.

Worcester give ex-Northampton centre Jon Clarke a first start.
PREDICTION: Home win

London Welsh v Saracens (Sunday: Kassam Stadium 2.15pm, LIVE on ESPN):
Injury-hit Exiles make six changes, including call-ups for hooker Dan George and centre James Lewis.

Saracens' rotation policy brings starts for Charlie Hodgson and John Smit.
PREDICTION: Away win

See the full Aviva Premiership table here

London Welsh 25 Gloucester 31

London Welsh 25 Gloucester 31: Burns bites back to settle thrilling encounter

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UPDATED:

16:52 GMT, 30 September 2012

Freddie Burns boosted his England hopes as his attacking spark helped Gloucester avoid becoming London Welsh's latest Aviva Premiership scalp in a Kassam Stadium thriller.

The visitors appeared in control as they opened up an 18-9 interval lead thanks to tries from Shane Monahan and Tom Savage, with Burns involved in the creation of both scores.

But the boot of Gordon Ross, who ended the game with 20 points to his name, kept Welsh in it and Franck Montanella's try looked to have set Lyn Jones' men up for a third-straight win.

Stopped: Daniel Browne of London Welsh is tackled by Mike Tindall of Gloucester

Stopped: Daniel Browne of London Welsh is tackled by Mike Tindall of Gloucester

Match facts

London Welsh: Jewell, Arscott, Parker, Tonga'uiha, Scott, Ross, Keats, Montanella, Briggs, Ion, Mills, Corker, Browne, Hills,
Jackson.

Replacements: Runciman for Jewell (76),
Mackenzie for Parker (20), To'oala for Ross (76), Bristow for Montanella (66), George for Briggs (11), Jolly for Ion (52), Kulemin for Browne (75).

Not Used: Davis.

Tries: Montanella.

Cons: Ross.

Pens: Ross 6.

Gloucester: Cook, Monahan, Twelvetrees, Tindall, Simpson-Daniel, Burns, Robson, Wood, D'Apice, Harden, Savage, Hamilton, Buxton, Qera, Kalamafoni.

Replacements: Lewis for Tindall (63), Trinder for Robson (63), Murphy for Wood (64).

Not Used: Britton, Knight, James, Evans, M. Thomas.

Sin Bin: Burns (42).

Tries: Monahan, Savage, Knight.

Cons: Burns 2.

Pens: Burns 3, Twelvetrees.

Att: 3,072

Ref: Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts (RFU).

However, a thrilling counter-attack instigated and supported by Burns, back after a spell in the sin bin, saw replacement prop Shaun Knight barrel over for the clinching score.

Burns and Ross had traded early penalties before the visitors landed the first telling blow.

Welsh had lost hooker Neil Briggs and centre Sonny Parker to injury when Burns struck his second penalty before producing two moments of brilliance to create the opening try.

The fly-half launched a break from deep with a lovely sidestep and only Nick Scott's deliberate batting down of the scoring pass prevented a try.

The Exiles wing was sent to the sin bin for his trouble and Burns caught the hosts sleeping as he took a quick tap to allow the powerful Monahan to get over on the right.

Ross responded with a penalty for Welsh but they were fortunate not to concede a second try to Monahan when the winger brilliantly swerved his way out of the grasps of the Exiles cover, only to be denied a memorable score by a superb covering tackle from Tyson Keats.

It proved a brief reprieve as more
good work from Monahan and wing partner James Simpson-Daniel laid the
platform for Savage to barge over after Burns had gone close.

Ross
again responded with a penalty but Welsh were being forced into
ill-discipline as they struggled to contain Gloucester's desire to put
tempo on the game.

They
were also guilty of failing to convert two excellent tryscoring chances.
Lock Matt Corker sparked a thrilling counter from deep during the dying
embers of the first half, but repeated battering at the Gloucester line
yielded no reward.

And moments into the second half Ross
failed to get his pass away with several men free outside him as Burns
stepped in and was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on.

That
saw the Gloucester man binned and Ross kicked his fourth penalty, but
Welsh infringed moments later after failing to secure their own line-out
ball to let Billy Twelvetrees reinstate the nine-point gap between the
sides.

Give that to me: Paulica Ion tackles Tom Savage

Give that to me: Paulica Ion tackles Tom Savage

Denied: Hudson Tonga'uiha of London Welsh is tackled by Tindall

Denied: Hudson Tonga'uiha of London Welsh is tackled by Tindall

When the Exiles did manage to win set-piece ball their rolling maul was proving a handful for Gloucester, and one such surge led to Ross' fifth penalty.

The hosts then took the lead after more strong work from their pack. Several drives took them close to the line before Montanella was adjudged to have grounded the ball beneath a pile of bodies.

Ross converted for a one-point advantage and quickly added yet another penalty after Sione Kalamafoni was penalised for attempting to hurdle a pair of London Welsh defenders.

But Burns replied with his third penalty and then superbly created Knight's winning try to give Stuart Lancaster a glimpse of what he could offer come the autumn internationals.

London Welsh 25 Exeter 24: Exiles record first Premiership win

London Welsh 25 Exeter 24: Exiles stun Chiefs to record first Premiership win

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UPDATED:

16:43 GMT, 16 September 2012

London Welsh secured their first Aviva Premiership win when Seb Jewell converted Ed Jackson's late try to snatch victory over Exeter at Oxford's Kassam Stadium.

The Exiles battled all the way to overcome the Chiefs, who qualified for the Heineken Cup by finishing fifth last season.

Trailing 14-0 after 11 minutes, they hit back to finally snatch victory when a tremendous effort from their pack ended with Jackson driving over after 78 minutes to leave Jewell, who had come on for Gordon Ross six minutes earlier, a straightforward conversion.

Maiden win: London Welsh celebrate at the final whistle

Maiden win: London Welsh celebrate at the final whistle

The Exiles' earlier scores had come from a penalty try and a 70-yard interception try by left-wing Nick Scott. Former Scotland fly-half Gordon Ross landed two penalties and a conversion.

Full-back Luke Arscott, winger Matt Jess and No 8 Richard Baxter scored Exeter's tries. Fly-half Ignacio Mieres landed three conversions with his second-half replacement Gareth Steenson kicking a penalty.

Welsh, promoted from the Championship last season, had found out the hard way that you get punished for your mistakes in the Premiership as they lost 38-13 to Leicester and 40-3 at Harlequins in their opening two Premiership matches,

Exeter made them pay again after only five minutes with the opening try from Luke Arscott, whose brother Tom lined up at full-back for the Exiles.

Winning score: Alfie To'aola (above) crosses for a try before Seb Jewell (below) converts

Winning score: Alfie To'aola (above) crosses for a try before Seb Jewell (below) converts

Winning score: Alfie To'aola (above) crosses for a try before Seb Jewell (below) converts

With Ross probing for openings, Welsh forced a five-metre scrum when Luke Arscott was tackled behind his own try-line.

But a sloppy pass from the base of the scrum by Tyson Keats presented winger Ian Whitten with the chance to intercept and run 70 metres before off-loading to send Arscott on a clear run to the line.

Six minutes later poor defensive play in midfield allowed powerful Fijian centre Sireli Naqelevuki the opportunity to power his way past three home players before sending Jess in for the second try. And with Mieres converting both, Exeter were 14-0 ahead.

Strong start: Exeter had led 14-0 early on

Strong start: Exeter had led 14-0 early on

But the Welsh pack hauled the side back into the game with a classic piece of forward play.

Their classic rolling maul – something of a forgotten art in modern rugby – had the Chiefs back-pedalling frantically.

Referee Dave Pearson almost immediately signalled he had penalised Exeter but allowed Welsh the advantage and, with the visitors transgressing again in a desperate bid to halt the momentum, the official awarded a penalty try which Ross converted.

Try time: Nick Scott dives over the line after intercepting Chris Whitehead's pass

Try time: Nick Scott dives over the line after intercepting Chris Whitehead's pass

Scott got Welsh on the board once more when he anticipated hooker Chris Whitehead's pass inside his own 22 to turn defence into attack and outpace his pursuers on a 70-metre run for a try in the left corner, although Ross missed the conversion.

Ross again missed the opportunity to kick the Exiles ahead in the 32nd minute after Exeter flanker Tom Johnson was penalised for going straight through a ruck.

But Ross made no mistake five minutes later, kicking Welsh 15-14 in front after Exeter were penalised for bringing down a scrum in front of their own posts.

On a roll: London Welsh are up to ninth place in the Premiership table

On a roll: London Welsh are up to ninth place in the Premiership table

Exeter upped the intensity at the start of the second half and a series of forward drives ended with Baxter driving over from close range for their third try, converted by Mieres.

Two minutes later, Ross cut the deficit to three points with his second penalty from 40 metres but Mieres missed a fairly simple chance to cancel it out in the 56th minute.

Steenson, brought on for Mieres in the 57th minute, kicked Exeter 24-18 ahead with his first penalty shot seven minutes later.

But Welsh mounted one final assault and a series of four powerful forward surges towards the Exeter line ended with Jackson breaching the Chiefs' defence to set up Jewell's winning kick.

Paolo Di Canio reconciliation with Wes Foderingham

Di Canio offers reconciliation path to Foderingham after hauling keeper off after 20 minutes

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UPDATED:

15:14 GMT, 3 September 2012

Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio has held clear-the-air talks with Wes Foderingham, less than 24 hours after publicly criticising the young goalkeeper.

Di Canio blamed Foderingham for Preston's opening goal during Sunday's 4-1 npower League One defeat, and after the 21-year-old reacted angrily to being substituted, Di Canio called him 'arrogant' and 'ignorant' and demanded that he openly apologise or be dropped.

This afternoon it appears Foderingham has said sorry to Di Canio, who is now looking ahead to Swindon's next fixture against local rivals Oxford in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy first round on Wednesday night.

Rant: Paolo Di Canio hauled Wes Foderingham (right) off against Swindon

Rant: Paolo Di Canio hauled Wes Foderingham (right) off against Swindon

Football League blog

And the Italian confirmed via a
statement on the club's official website, swindontownfc.co.uk, that
Foderingham will be available for selection at the Kassam Stadium.

'Wes has apologised. The situation is
now clear and we will move on and work together,' said Di Canio. 'He is a
genuine guy and a strong character.

'The rules are there and he will pay
his price for his actions. He has been fantastic for us last and this
season, but he didn't behave well on Sunday.

'He will have his chance to be a part of the team and be available for selection against Oxford on Wednesday night.'

Foderingham was at fault for the first
Preston goal, hesitating over a clearance which then
rebounded off Stuart Beavon into the path of Akpo Sodje to score.

After 22 minutes, with Swindon losing 2-0, Di Canio replaced Foderingham with teenager Leigh Bedwell.

Foderingham, clearly angered at the
substitution, made his way straight down the touchline to the dressing
room, taking his frustration out on a water bottle en route, before
watching the second half of the game from the stands instead of the
bench.

Reconciliation: Di Canio has taken a step back

Reconciliation: Di Canio has taken a step back

Following the game, Di Canio launched into a stinging criticism of the goalkeeper.

He said: 'He was one of the worst
players I have ever seen. He's another player like the others, why can't
we change the goalkeeper Because the goalkeeper has a different
coloured shirt

'I know my players, I know Wes – he
was the worst player against Stoke in the cup in midweek – he was far
away the worst player, he made a rubbish performance. But I covered for
him because we won 4-3.

'What he did was not only the mistake,
which can happen to anyone, but the arrogance when he started moaning
to the other players – that was the worst thing for me.

'A player that doesn't recognise his
mistakes which were clear from miles away, he started moaning to his
team-mates. Out there he behaved as the worst professional, arrogant,
ignorant athlete I have ever seen.

'I don't want any argument from the
fans. And if he doesn't come out and apologise to the fans, to the
professionals in general, he is out from my team.'

Foderingham has kept 28 clean sheets in 47 appearances for Swindon, setting a club record of 12 consecutive home clean sheets.

Gavin Henson relishing last shot at big time

This is my last shot at the big time, says Henson as he prepares to turn out for London Welsh

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UPDATED:

22:39 GMT, 24 August 2012

Gavin Henson will take his prized place at No 10 for the launch of London Welsh’s survival mission next weekend, armed with the desperate drive of a man who thought he was finished as a rugby player and knows this is his final shot at salvation.

The 30-year-old former Wales centre will take on the role of creative director for the Exiles at fly-half as they begin their crusade to stay afloat in the Aviva Premiership by hosting Leicester at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium.

Henson has been trying to scale the heights again since returning from an extended sabbatical in 2010 but abortive stints at Saracens and Toulon were followed by a miserable spell at Cardiff Blues, which ended abruptly in the aftermath of yet another alcohol-related controversy.

All eyes on you, Gavin: Henson poses for a London Welsh team photo

All eyes on you, Gavin: Henson poses for a London Welsh team photo

Back in action: Henson congratulates Tom Baldwin after his try in a pre-season game against Bath

Back in action: Henson congratulates Tom Baldwin after his try in a pre-season game against Bath

However, the belated promotion of London Welsh from the Championship has given him an unexpected opportunity for personal fulfilment under the guidance of coach Lyn Jones, who oversaw his rise to prominence years ago in Swansea.

Circumstances have suddenly conspired in his favour, as Henson admitted on Friday. ‘I am very lucky to have a chance here,’ he said. ‘This is my last chance. I am really excited and looking forward to the start of the season. I thought Cardiff would be my last club, and it was going to be, but I couldn’t end my career like that.

‘It (the move to London Welsh) has kept me in the game, to put things right. I was more or less finished rugby-wise. I thought that was it but I felt I had unfinished business. I have had to bite the bullet and try to put things right.

Gavin Henson at Cardiff

Gavin Henson at Toulon

Moving around: Henson in his time with Cardiff (left) and playing for Toulon (right)

‘From now on I’m making sure I stay on the straight and narrow. Hopefully I will get a fair crack. I can understand the perceptions people have of me, but I am totally focused on rugby and have been since I came back into the game. But things haven’t worked out for one reason or another.

‘I took my time out and it has been a rough ride trying to get back in. This is my last chance. How long my career lasts I have got no idea. I don’t put any years on it — it depends on how I am performing.’

Henson has been invigorated by the opportunity to link up with Jones again, describing him as ‘super intelligent rugby-wise’ and claiming he played the best rugby of his career under him at the Ospreys.
He would need to reach that sort of peak again if there is to be any hope of a Test recall, but Henson isn’t holding his breath, adding: ‘You wouldn’t say no but I am a million miles away from that. Wales have a good squad — they don’t need me.’

Glory days: Henson playing for Wales against England at Twickenham in 2008

Glory days: Henson playing for Wales against England at Twickenham in 2008

Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed he came close to leaving the post in favour of a return to his native New Zealand after the World Cup. ‘It was a toss of the coin,’ he said. ‘I had been offered the Waikato Chiefs job. I said to them, “Is there a chance of any movement on it You have offered me less money than I was on in 2007”.

‘They just said, “Things are tight at the moment. That’s the best we can do, take it or leave it”, so I said, “Thanks very much, I’ll leave it”.’

Gatland sought to re-emphasise his commitment to Wales on Friday night in light of the earlier remarks made in an ‘informal’ discussion during a university visit.

‘I am totally loyal and fully committed to Wales and to say otherwise is ridiculous,’ he said. ‘If I wasn’t committed do people seriously think I would stay for so long on the other side of the world from my family’